Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rosemary Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

The first time I heard the words rosemary and cookies together I couldn't quite wrap my brain around why anyone would take a savory herb like rosemary and toss it into cookies.  It only took one bite of the samples a friend brought to an herb society meeting to convince me that this combination is genius, especially when paired with hazelnuts in a shortbread cookie. 

The original recipe was need of a little refining...too many nuts and too much rosemary  made the cookies too course and crumbly for my taste but the flavor was great and I was inspired.  So with a little reworking here is what I came up with.

Preheat oven to 275 F

1 pound (2 cups) unsalted butter
1 cup baker's sugar
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup raw hazelnuts, ground
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Bittersweet chocolate, grated (optional...but who wouldn't want chocolate on their cookies, seriously!)
1 cup candied orange peel, diced (optional)

The herb of friendship in a cookie...genius!

Chop the nuts and rosemary first.  I used my food processor to chop the hazelnuts, pulsing it until they were quite fine but still had some texture.  (You do not want nut flour)  Remove the rosemary leaves from the woody stems.  This is accomplished easily by holding the tip of the stem and pulling downward; the leaves come right off.  The tender tips can just be plucked off and chopped with the leaves.  I usually gather about 1/2 cup of leaves and then chop them so I'm sure to have enough.
NOTE: I have tried numerous methods of chopping rosemary and let me say this right now...those herb choppers are no match for this herb's leaves and the food processor doesn't work on them either.  I found that a sharp chef's knife was the best tool in the drawer for this job.  One of the things I love about chopping them this way is the fragrance that I get to drink in while working with them.  Its so wonderful!

In a medium bowl mix together the nuts, rosemary and flour.  (I use a metal whisk for this.) Stir them together so they are evenly incorporated with each other.  Set this bowl aside.

Next cream the butter and sugar together.  Cut the butter into cubes and place it in the mixer.  Start out on a medium speed and after the butter is creamed a bit turn up the speed, stopping every so often to clear the beater so all the butter gets worked.   Once the butter is creamy add the sugar to the bowl and continue creaming it into the butter. 
NOTE:  You want the butter to stay cold so don't over do the just want it softened and creamy.

Once the butter and sugar are creamed add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until just blended.  Over mixing the dough will make the cookies tough.  Also don't be tempted to add more flour..that will make them like hockey pucks...I learned this lesson the hard way and those cookies are now a thing of family legend.

Place the dough on an ungreased jellyroll pan or cookie sheet and press it out to spread it evenly across the pan.  I use a 15"x20" jellyroll pan (Wearever 4549 professional baking sheet).  To get the dough even, flatten it out to about 1" thick using your hands.  Then place plastic wrap over the dough and use a rolling pin to even out further.  I use a French rolling pin which works really well for this.   Rolling it helps as since you don't warm the dough up too much from the heat of your hands.  Before placing the sheet in the oven, take a fork and prick the dough all over which will keep air pockets from forming in the dough as it bakes and keep your cookies solid.

Place the sheet in the oven and bake 1 HOUR or until the cookies are just starting to brown.

Slices spread apart more than I anticipated

Remove from oven and cut immediately!  If you try to cut them after they cool the cookies will shatter.  I use my large chef's knife for this job and when I don't do what I did above I also use a straight edge (ruler) to get the lines straight.  Many recipes say to score the dough where you want to cut it before baking...with this recipe you don't have to.

Bittersweet chocolate and rosemary

Now for the yummy the cookies with shaved chocolate...I grate mine using a box grater that is older than I am and still works like a dream for such things.  You want to add the chocolate while the cookies are still hot and in the pan so it melts nicely and it stays on the cookies.  I use a teaspoon and just sprinkle it over the top of each cookie carefully so it looks nice.  Next I add the candied orange peel.  Allow the cookies to cool completely before serving.

NOTE: This dough can also be rolled into logs for cutting into cookie discs.  Roll up in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer for 15 minutes and then slice it and place one inch apart on the baking sheet. 

These cookies make beautiful gifts and are a great winter time treat.  So invite a friend over for a lovely cup of black tea of good coffee and fresh baked cookies. 


Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks
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